There’s not a player in the NFL who doesn’t look forward to the end of the preseason and the start of the real thing. This year, there might not be a player looking forward to it more than Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.
“I’m really excited,” Bradford said. “I think it will be nice to actually get into an actual game week with a game plan, talk to ‘Schotty’ [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] obviously this weekend and early next week and figure out exactly what we want to do.”
For each of his three previous training camps and subsequent regular seasons, Bradford has found himself trying to play catch-up. He’d had three offensive coordinators in as many seasons and three systems to learn along with them.
This year, though, Bradford was noticeably more comfortable and relaxed during camp. He was more decisive on the practice field and openly embraced the leadership role vacated by former running back Steven Jackson.
As he enters his second season with Schottenheimer, Bradford is comfortable enough that he not only knows the offense but has spent time in practice teaching the details to the many young skill position players surrounding him.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti have taken notice, planning to involve Bradford more in weekly game planning sessions.
“As you mature in the system, I think it’s easier from a quarterback standpoint to say, ‘Hey, I like this’ as opposed to, 'I am not real sure about that,'” Fisher said. “As he goes through the week, he can experiment with some things. If he’s comfortable, we’ll take it into the game; if not, then we’ll take it out. We want him to be comfortable with everything we’re doing.”
On the field, the Rams didn’t spend much time in the preseason games revealing much of their offensive personality. There are, however, a few takeaways that can come from the exhibition season that might provide some clues as to how the Rams and Bradford are attempting to evolve offensively.
As ESPN Insider Mike Sando wrote recently, Bradford played 64 snaps in three preseason games, which ranks 23rd among projected starters. Normally, Fisher prefers to play his starters some in the fourth preseason game, but he was happy enough with Bradford’s performance in his playing time that he opted to err on the side of caution.
“I thought he had a good preseason,” Fisher said. “He’s got a great understanding of what we’re doing, he’s done some really good things on the practice field and so he’s ready to go.”
Although the Rams kept things simple offensively throughout the preseason, Bradford’s comfort level is perhaps best viewed through the scope of his attempts to get the ball down the field.
In his first three seasons, Bradford finished 30th (5.95), 32nd (6.06) and 26th (6.72) in yards per attempt. Hence the Rams’ attempt to surround him with more speed at receiver and tight end.
This preseason, Bradford tied for second among projected starters in yards per attempt at 10.2. That spike yielded a quarterback rating of 114.1, which ranked fourth among projected starters.
It’s important to remember that the sample size is small and Bradford’s numbers are certainly bolstered by a couple of deep strikes to wideout Chris Givens. What will happen in the regular season remains to be seen, but there are certainly signs that the offense is indeed moving in the direction of one that will be more aggressive and take more chances.
Of course, anything that happened in preseason is already wiped away and only now will we know whether there will be a correlation.
"The preseason is tough in the fact that you pretty much run everything that you have,” Bradford said. “There’s not really a game plan. There’s a call sheet, but we don’t really sit down and talk. So, it will be nice to actually get into a game week and know exactly what’s going to be on the call sheet and what our plan of attack is.”